“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).”
“I do something for my people and my country. You are young and active. What have you done for your people and your country.”
This is the statement and question Dr. Hawa Abdi made to two 18-year-old religiously-based militants who had just told her that she was an old woman and needed to sit down. These fighters had invaded her camp for displaced people in Somalia and wreaked havoc. Her story is in a current episode of Newsweek magazine.
After she had refused to hand over her camp and medical facilities to the militants on the basis that, in their religion, she was a woman and not allowed to have authority , 750 of them showed up at her facility. They beat the guards and leaders of the camp.
In addition, they flung mortar shells into her hospital. Terrified mothers, including a new one, and their children fled into the forests. Dr. Abdi knew they wouldn’t survive.
She and some of her nurses were taken away from the camp and put in an empty room. When they were taken back, the camp was silent. The place had been devastated.
Mayhem had been wreaked in Dr. Abdi’s own office. Personal papers, photos and property had been destroyed.
The militants had ripped open her furniture. They were looking for hidden money.
Somalia has been at war for over 20 years. It’s men have made the country a sore place on the globe. People are starving and dying.
Of course, as Dr. Abdi describes, the main sufferers are innocent women and children. They have no means to defend themselves from the oppression and brutality forced upon them.
When men behave badly, the Somalias of the world are the result. It is conflict, chaos, despair and agony.
The last time I remember hearing anyone utter a statement like the one Dr. Abdi made to her young captors, I was the one who made it. I was not in a war-torn region, but at a sporting event.
I had taken my young son to his first professional football game. Although our favorite team, the one at home, was pitiful and was playing a very good opponent, and the weather was atrocious, we were happy to be there.
However, the atmosphere began to be spoiled by a large number of visiting young male fans. They were drunk and unruly. They uttered loud epithets against the team we were rooting for.
I was beginning to get disappointed for my son. Knowing that these drunks were rooting for a team for whom winning was a new experience, I lashed out. I looked at one of the winos and said,”When was the last time YOUR team won anything?”
Sometimes you have to ask some hard questions to wake people up. This is what I was trying to do in some respects. Of course, in a much more dire venue, this was what Dr. Abdi was doing.
The Bible tells a story similar to the one related by Newsweek concerning Dr. Abdi. Its villains were also supposedly religious young men.
In fact, the men in the story were the sons of the high priest of the whole nation of Israel, a man named Eli. The Bible writes that these young men were “scoundrels” (I Samuel 2:12).
These bad boys profaned the meat sacrifices of their religion instead of using them in accordance with God’s instructions. According to Matthew Henry, they stepped in before the sacrifice was performed and took the best cuts for themselves.
These sons of the high priest did more than this. Adding tothe stereotype of ministers’ boys being bad apples who fall far from the tree, they slept with the women who worked at the temple (I Samuel 2:22).
My guess is that these illicit couplings were not ones welcomed in most cases by the women involved. They most likely feared for their jobs, or even their lives.
These young men had their own Dr. Abdi figure, i.e. their father Eli. To Eli’s credit, he rebuked them strongly for their behavior.
However, Eli differed from Dr. Abdi in one respect. While he only talked a good game, Dr. Abdi put teeth to her reproach.
One day the militants came to her and told her to reopen her facility. They had told the media her camp was open and didn’t want to look bad.
However, Dr. Abdi would only do so on one condition. She would reopen her camp if she received a written apology.
She told Newsweek why she did this:
I knew if I accepted their request to open my facilities today, they’d have the power to return tomorrow, to tell me to close them. I had to show them the consequences of their actions, for their own survival; they are the husbands and sons of the women I treat, the brothers of the other wounded men in the hospital.
It took a week, but the second-in-command of the militants came with a letter of apology. Dr. Abdi reopened her camp.
She then told the militants:
“I am a Somali. I am a mother. I am a doctor, and I deserve to be respected. I care for so many people around you–this was a tragedy you could have prevented.”
Eli could have prevented his sons’ wrong creation of mayhem among the Israelites, also. He was far more powerful than Dr. Abdi. He could have done something to discipline them for their unholy behavior.
Instead, Eli just blabbed. The boys ignored him and went on their merry way.
However, God saw what was happening and did more than just talk. He stepped in and told Eli what was coming.
Since he had not chosen to leave a legacy of godliness to his children, God told Eli none of his descendants would live long lives. Furthermore, in the short term, Eli’s wicked sons would soon die on the same day. Ouch!
Preaching at the boys wasn’t good enough for God. In His scheme of things, being a good father and priest in his home and nation meant that Eli needed to take action against the evil in his sphere of control.
Instead, Eli had aided and abetted it by doing nothing. To God, he was as guilty as his two sons. Double ouch!
During the raid and occupation of her camp, Dr. Abdi told the militants,”You are men. You need to give something to these people in need.” Instead, these unholy men were wrecking and pillaging the one place of refuge these people had.
We have a choice as men today. We can contribute to the well-being of our families and societies, or we can be part of the ongoing chaos and upheaval we see currently in the news.
The challenge to holiness in this unrighteous world is not for men only. Women have a choice also. They can be like Dr. Abdi and confront the excesses of men, who sometimes can be beastly, and choose to be holy themselves and contribute to their worlds.
The news today brought the story of a young woman who decided to join the looters during a riot in her city last week. She has up until now had a solid reputation in her country as a sports ambassador and has been feted in the past.
Her mom saw her rampaging on the news and didn’t waste any time. She called the police on her daughter. Good for her!
There was something wrong with Eli’s heart. There was something definitely wrong with his sons’ hearts.
What God wants is from his sons and daughters is hearts of gold. Brian Doerksen wrote about this prayer, which applies to all of us:
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
As worship leaders, Eli and sons should have been at what Matt Redman calls the “heart of worship”. When his church had lost its way in worshipping God, the leaders got rid of the music, and parishioners began to express heart-felt responses to God.
Afterward, he penned these lyrics:
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
Our young people today need to know it’s not all about them. As a father of two adult young people, and two teenagers, I know it’s my job to teach them.
If I don’t, and if you don’t, then we may end up with a couple of children of Eli, without hearts: young people who are confused, misguided and headed for destruction.
Gold is a precious commodity. It’s currently and its highest price ever and extremely valuable. What is more valuable is the hearts of our kids.
You and I need to step up and develop hearts of gold in ourselves and in our children. In a raucous period of history, it’s our only recourse for recovery.